Thursday, January 31, 2008

Get out the gowns and tuxes

NEW HAVEN — The 2008 Inaugural Ball will begin at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at Woolsey Hall on the Yale University campus.
Tickets are $75 each and can be obtained by calling the 2008 Inaugural Ball Committee at (203) 508-4199. The event will celebrate the election of Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. to his 8th term in office as well as the election of the 30 members of the Board of Aldermen and City Clerk Ron Smith, to their respective terms.
Tickets to the gala can be purchased up until Feb. 15. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Dance with me

Worthington Hooker School 7th graders Noel Lee, Jonet Bolden and Tarpley Hitt watch intently as their classmate Bianca Washington dances with tango dancer Patrick Gray on Wednesday afternoon. The Yale School of Music provided an introduction to Argentinean tango through live music and dance performances.

Photo by Brad Horrigan

Michelle Obama visits the state, her husband is due here Monday

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— For more than an hour, they connected.
Paying back student loans, juggling family and work, worrying about schools and health care, Michelle Obama, shown at far right, on Wednesday touched on those topics and more as she talked with five women from Connecticut about the real issues confronting them.
Obama, who began the day in New York and was scheduled to leave for Delaware after an evening fundraiser at Ned Lamont’s home in Greenwich, spoke softly and carried on as if she and her new friends were the only ones in the back room at the Parkway Diner on a main drag in Stamford.
"When we first started, there were maybe two of these," Obama said, pointing to the crowd of reporters, TV cameramen and photographers assembled three rows deep in front of her, although she wasn’t complaining about the attention.
Obama, 43, a health care administrator in Chicago, stopped to conduct one of her signature meetings with voters on the day the Rasmussen Reports showed her husband, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, neck and neck, each with 40 percent of the vote as Connecticut gets ready to head to the polls Tuesday for the Democratic presidential primary.
Last week, a University of Connecticut poll showed Clinton with 41 percent to 27 percent for Obama, although that poll also found 21 percent of voters undecided.
Obama said she found in her travels that everyone has the same worries and wants the same things, and she said in that sense America is not a divided country.
"We are not that far apart," Obama said.
"They just want to know that they can trust who is going to be leading the charge. We have lost confidence in our government, and we have also lost confidence in one another, and that is something that has to be restored," she said.
Obama emphasized that her husband’s run for the White House, "is now or never."
"This is the only time that Barack will be this close, that we will have a chance at having someone who is three years outside of paying off their (student) debt. Someone who is still going to Target to get toilet paper ... there is something about being that close to the issues on the ground," she said.
When Barack Obama first got into the race, there was much discussion that it was not his time, that he could give it another shot in four years.
His wife Wednesday said there is something lost the longer you go after such a goal, and especially for her family personally. "Do you have kids going through this again and again?" Obama asked, referring to her 9- and 6-year-old daughters, whose father has been home only 10 days in the last year.
"It’s not a threat, it’s a reality," she said.
Asked what her emphasis would be as "first spouse," she said, "The truth is, I don’t know."
But like most women, she said first she will have to settle her children. After that, she felt she could advance the issue of adequate child care, a good education and the struggle to balance work and home by providing a platform to address it.
"When I talk about this stuff, I talk about values first, not some sort of holier-than-thou kind of approach, but I think we have to start with a vision of what kind of country we want to be," she said.
Obama said even people who are not going to vote for her husband should still participate in the election.
"The bigger challenges are us and our level of engagement and not giving that up, not conceding that to fear or cynicism or ignorance," she said. "We have given up our voices, we have handed over our power and we can’t afford to do that,"
Two of the five women at the table, who ranged in age from 24 to 59, were from New Haven: Jessica Pettigrew, a midwife in training at the Yale School of Nursing, and Taiwo Stanback, a Yale graduate who worked in the nonprofit Youth@Work program. Stanback said she now needs to find a job to pay off $20,000 in student loans and get health insurance.
While she favors Clinton’s health plan over Obama’s, Pettigrew, 25, is not sure America is ready for it and thinks Obama’s compromise is a step in the right direction.
Stanback came to the event not sure whom she would vote for, but was leaning toward Clinton. When she left, Stanback, 24, was ready to campaign for Obama.
"There was a genuineness about her," she said of Michelle Obama. An organizer herself, Stanback said Barack Obama’s ability to engage people was important. "It is evident that there is something special there," she said.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5732 or

Lecture series to examine genetic links and cancer

The following a press release from Yale-New Haven Hospital:

NEW HAVEN - Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale Cancer Center will present a free health talk, entitled, "The Genetic Link" at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 in Yale-New Haven Hospital ‘s East Pavilion cafeteria. The lecture is part of the ongoing "Understanding Cancer" lecture series for patients and families living with cancer.
Rachel E. Barnett, MS, a genetic counselor in the Yale Cancer Center genetic counseling program, will review the connection between genetics and cancer and provide information on genetic testing and counseling. At the end of the presentation, guests will have time to ask questions.
A light supper will be served at 6 p.m. ; the lecture begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. The lecture is free and validated parking is available. Call (203) 688-2000 to make reservations and for directions to park in the Air Rights Garage.

Man won't serve extra time for robbery

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— Derrick White learned Wednesday he won’t be serving any prison time on New Haven bank robbery conspiracy charges, but also learned that a missed court appearance earned him a 2-year sentence, to be served concurrently with a 10-year sentence for a robbery in Bridgeport.
White, 43, formerly of West Haven, was brought by marshals to Superior Court here Wednesday morning to receive the two-year sentence for failure to appear in court last May. This will be served concurrently with his 10-year sentence recently imposed in Bridgeport Superior Court.
Assistant State’s Attorney Robert J. O’Brien had earlier agreed to drop charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree robbery, conspiracy to commit third-degree larceny, attempted assault on a police officer and interfering with an officer, stemming from his role in the robbery of the NewAlliance Bank branch in Fair Haven by Willie Cox in December 2005.
During Cox’s trial in February 2007, White testified he gave Cox a ride to the bank but that he had no idea Cox was planning a robbery. He said he thought Cox needed a ride to his grandmother’s house.
White also testified he didn’t know Cox had gone into the bank nor that Cox was carrying a gun until New Haven Police Officer David Runlett tried to stop White’s car on Quinnipiac Avenue.
According to White, Runlett pointed his gun at the car and started waving the weapon "like crazy." White said he panicked and pulled away in the car. White testified he noticed Cox too had a gun, and that Cox told him, "Go! Go!"
Shortly afterward, White added, he saw another police car blocking Middletown Avenue. He stopped his car and fled, but was soon captured. Cox was apprehended later.
O’Brien had hoped White’s testimony would persuade a jury to convict Cox on bank robbery charges. But the jurors found Cox not guilty on those charges while declaring him guilty of attempted assault on a police officer. Cox is serving an eight-year term.
O’Brien said Wednesday that authorities initially were skeptical of White’s account of the events the day of the New Haven bank robbery, "but we got the sense he might have been telling the truth."
After White was brought into the courtroom, O’Brien told Judge Richard Damiani, "He was out on parole but then he got into serious trouble in Bridgeport, which ended any hope of avoiding prison."
White is serving a 10-year sentence for robbing a Subway restaurant, according to defense attorney Thomas Ullmann.
O’Brien asked Damiani to impose the concurrent sentence of two years, which both sides had worked out in an agreement.
White declined to speak during the court session.
When Ullmann told Damiani, "Two years concurrent is fair," Damiani replied, "Fair? It’s generous."
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

EPA fines waste firm $42G

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Active Oil Inc. has been fined $42,075 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency for illegally storing PCB-tainted waste oil, in a case dating back to December 2003.
The Forbes Avenue waste oil recycling plant stored a shipment of oil containing PCBs in its receiving tanks without testing the material, a violation of federal law regulating the storage and handling of polychlorinated biphenyls, EPA officials said.
PCBs are suspected carcinogens. Exposure to PCBs can cause liver problems and skin rashes.
Despite widespread contamination at the site, EPA attorney Gregory Dain said it is not believed workers at Active Oil were exposed to PCBs, or that the material caused environmental harm.
"Their entire facility was contaminated with PCBs," Dain said. Contamination spread to all three of Active’s receiving tanks and into its bulk storage tank.
While Active Oil self-reported the problem, the case triggered action from the state Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the EPA, and required a lengthy cleanup.
Active Oil’s permit with the DEP has since expired and a new permit is under review.
"As a result of the problems they had, they couldn’t use their facility. It was completely contaminated with PCBs. It took quite a while to clean it up, and took quite a while to work out differences with the state," said Dain.
While the business was inactive, the EPA held off pursuing action against the firm. "Since they weren’t in business, we couldn’t sue for money," Dain said.
"We had an arrangement where if they worked out differences with the Connecticut agency, they could restart the business, and would agree to pay the penalty," he said.
"As far as I know, they’re back in business," Dain said.
Active Oil’s listed phone number is not in service, but an attorney for the company, Steven Levy, said "they are still a viable company."
The company has not yet paid the fine, which Levy said is not yet due.
Active Oil sued an environmental testing firm in August 2004 that had allegedly been hired to test oil shipments for the company. That suit was settled earlier this month. Details of the case and settlement were unavailable Wednesday.
Dain said the EPA was not involved in the suit, and continues to hold Active Oil responsible for the contamination.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

Alleged drug ring busted

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
Alleged members of a New Haven drug trafficking organization busted by the FBI may have been behind a Jan. 4 shooting of a rival in West Haven, authorities said.
The U.S. attorney’s office Wednesday announced that a federal grand jury indicted eight people in connection with a drug ring that sold cocaine, crack and heroin in and around New Haven.
Seven of those people already are in custody, but the alleged ringleader, identified as Nelson "Nellie Rock" Rodriguez, 29, of Elm Street, East Haven, remains at large.
Most court documents remain sealed, so few details were available about the operation or the 10-month probe by an FBI task force. But a recent detention hearing for one of the defendants revealed a propensity for violence.
When Alexy Laureano, 28, of Claudia Drive, West Haven, went to court to try to get bail, authorities revealed that Rodriguez and one or more associates allegedly initiated and directed a shooting in West Haven.
The injuries were not life- threatening and West Haven police said no one has been charged yet in that incident.
The indictment was handed up Jan. 23, but remained sealed until Monday.
According to federal authorities, the drug charges stem from a 10-month investigation by the FBI’s Safe Streets Gang Task Force into a narcotics trafficking organization led by Rodriguez.
The investigation included the use of confidential informants, controlled purchases of drugs and court-authorized wiretaps.
Those arrested as of Wednesday were Laureano, Venus Rodriguez, 33, of Blake Street; Salvador Baez, 31, the brother of Nelson Rodriguez, of Palmieri Avenue; Ernesto Martinez, 22, Nelson Rodriguez’s cousin, of Exchange Street; and Tiffany Matos, 19, of Saltonstall Avenue, all of New Haven; and David Santiago, 31, of Michael Road, Hamden, owner of the Tire Doctor auto sales and garage at 470 Ella Grasso Blvd.; and Juan Baez, 33, of New Haven, another brother of Nelson Rodriguez.
The FBI has asked anyone with knowledge of Nelson Rodriguez’s whereabouts to contact them at 777-2140.
If convicted, Nelson Rodriguez, Laureano, Baez, and Martinez each face up to life in prison and up to a $4 million fine. Venus Rodriguez and Santiago face up to 40 years in prison and up to $2 million in fines.
Juan Baez and Tiffany Matos each face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million, if convicted.

One smart cookie

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff

Cookie Magazine named Jessica Sager, founder of All Our Kin, as one of five Smart Cookie finalists for its 2008 Reader’s Choice Awards.
Cookie, a national monthly about contemporary parenting, launched the contest, now its second year, to honor women who balance everyday demands of motherhood with making a difference for women and children in their communities.
Readers will decide which finalist gets a $35,000 donation from Cookie for his or her nonprofit organization.
To date, All Our Kin has built a network of 197 certified, home-based child care centers, and serves 250 parents and providers who care for 1,200 children annually.
Amos Friedland, a Yale Law School student familiar with Cookie, nominated Sager for the competition, much to her surprise and delight. Sager, shown at right, lives in Hamden with her husband, Sachin Pandya, and daughter, Sophia, 2.
All Our Kin, founded by Sager when she finished Yale Law School in 1999, trains and licenses home-based child care providers.
In addition to $35,000, the winner will receive $1,000 for a charity of choice, and will be an honoree at the Smart Cookie Awards gala in New York City April 21.
Sager, 36, said she enrolled in law school intending to work as an advocate for children.
When the 1996 federal Personal Responsibility Act set stringent limits on welfare for low-income mothers, Sager believed that many could earn a living as home-based child care providers, allowing them to earn income while staying home with their children.
Many low-income women already ran such home centers, but lacked training and state certification, she said. "They were afraid to ask for help," she said, worried the state might shut them down.
Sager and All Our Kin co-founder Janna Wagner, a New Haven native, decided to start an agency to help women obtain training and certification while improving care for the children.
The agency expands access to high-quality child care for children in their earliest years, which many experts consider the most critical stage of brain development.
"I want children to be safe, loved, and learning," Sager said.
All Our Kin, funded largely by local foundations and individual donations, operates out of offices on Grand Avenue in Fair Haven.
The agency offers low-income women economically sustainable job opportunities, education and the chance to develop a career as a child care professional.
As the agency’s graduates open up more child care centers, they expand the availability of affordable, high quality child care.
To vote online, go to Votes will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Feb. 8. The winner will be chosen Feb. 11.

Volunteers seek out homeless

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— A team of Connecticut Counts volunteers cautiously entered an isolated lot off Woodin Street Wednesday night, searching for homeless people who may have taken shelter there.
The volunteers, some of whom are shown at right, walked across the dark lot until they found a stone cross at the end, a tall grave marker bearing no name. This team had discovered a forgotten pauper’s cemetery, the Hamden-Westville Woodin Cemetery. The cross may have had no name because it stood for all the dead who had been buried, penniless, anonymous, homeless.
Thirty-four teams, totaling 110 volunteers, fanned out through the city looking for homeless people at risk of exposure.
Yale Divinity School students who volunteered said it would be a good chance to practice what they learned in class. By 9:30 p.m., the teams had found 60 people out in the cold. The count went on until 11 p.m.
The team that found the pauper’s cemetery continued to scour West Rock by car, scanning the woods, consulting a map and trying to make sure they surveyed each street for which they were responsible. They checked a loading dock. They looked at solitary cars in parking lots.
At an abandoned project with boarded up doors and windows, volunteer Tom Lehtonen, an alderman, used a heavy-duty flashlight to look into units with open doors. He couldn’t get too close — a tall fence separated the buildings from the sidewalk.
"This is where they might take shelter," volunteer Allison Ponce said.
The team left West Rock and headed to Shelton Avenue and Newhall Street. An older man leaning on crutches stood outside a convenience store that had just closed out. He asked all passers-by for fifty cents.
Ponce took out the homeless survey and asked him a few questions and then gave up. "He said he had his crib," she said, shrugging as they walked down the darkened residential streets.
After two hours, they headed back to the offices of Liberty Community Services Safe Haven, a bustling hub at 210 State St. where volunteers met up to share their survey results.
"I’m so excited. I really wanted to see the neighborhoods," said Anna Robinson-Sweet, 19, a Yale University freshman from Brooklyn, N.Y.
Homeless workers had been sent to canvass parts of town known to have high numbers of homeless people.
Others traveled to neighborhoods with boarded-up houses, vacant lots, stores and other places that might attract people seeking shelter.
A group of volunteers from Cheshire United Methodist Church left Liberty Community Services amazed at their experience.
"I really wanted to see how you feel when you see a homeless person," said Elizabeth Thomas.
"We do it partly to get to know ourselves," added Carolyn Hardin-Englehardt. "You find out how you interact with the homeless. Personally, for me I thought it would be spiritually challenging to face homelessness."

A Time for Action, according to Doc Whitney

George "Doc" Whitney believes that when anybody — even a "nobody" like him — gets a good idea, well, then, "don’t hide it under a bushel basket."
"I wondered how many good ideas we oldies have to take to the grave when some may have merit," he said in a letter to me a few weeks ago.
Whitney, a retired veterinarian, was getting so worked up about government corruption and his big idea that he couldn’t sleep past 5 a.m.
And so he started writing down his thoughts. He recalled Thomas Paine, who in January 1776 published "Common Sense," a pamphlet advocating an American declaration of independence from the tyrannical King George III. (The rest is history.)
The result of Whitney’s early-morning jottings is now upon us. Entitled "A Time For Action," its 93 pages call for the elimination of lobbyists, among other passionate proposals.
After reading Whitney’s letter, I made my way out to his house overlooking "Lake George" in Orange. He lives there with Dorothy Whitney, whom he introduces as "my bride," though they have been married 44 years.
He is 89, she is 91. "I married a younger man," she told me.
"These presidential candidates are missing all the big subjects," Whitney said as soon as we sat down. "I’ve got the big subjects in my book."
When I asked if any candidate has won his support for the Feb. 5 Connecticut primary, he said, "John Edwards is the only one who says he wouldn’t let a lobbyist into the White House. I was upset hearing Hillary (Clinton) say she wouldn’t say that."
"As it stands now," Whitney declared, "I will vote for Edwards."
His "bride" interjected, "We have to have some conversation about this, George. Before I leave this world, I want to see a woman president."
He moved on to tell me more about his big idea. "People point out problems, but they don’t point out what to do about them. So I wrote a book with the problems and the answers."
Here’s his idea, as stated in his letter: "Why not create a voluntary pledge to present to a legislator, present or aspiring, to take if he or she wants my vote in the next election? A pledge that states, ‘If I win the election, neither I nor my staff will have anything personal to do with lobbyists.’ Another pledge would be for the constituent that he or she will not vote for a candidate who will not agree to the pledge."
"A friend told me, ‘George, that’s pie in the sky,’" Whitney said as he sat at his table. "Well, every good idea is pie in the sky. If it’s worth anything, it’ll fly. If it’s not, it’ll die."
"I’m a nobody," he said cheerfully. "But there are thousands of nobodies who know this is a problem. All who act can be somebodies."
Whitney added, "If we get enough people to take the pledge, it could be a powerful tool. It could change the whole government."
Then he said, "I’m emotional about this."
When Whitney left the room briefly, Dorothy confided, "I listened to him talk about this day after day. It got to be a little depressing. I finally said, ‘Why don’t you write a book?’ — thinking he’d get it out of his system."
Clearly, it didn’t work. But he doesn’t think his book is "depressing." He dedicated it to Oprah Winfrey "and to all others who are optimistic about the future."
In the conclusion he wrote, "My bride claims I am too optimistic a person to end without proclaiming I am optimistic about the future. The problems mentioned are only a proclamation as to some problems needing attention and are not that difficult to correct."
His other ideas include creating "cottages" where inner city kids of preschool age would meet with parents and teachers to prepare for elementary school. He suggests they be funded by foundations or Yale University.
When Dorothy told him people in poor neighborhoods might not want to be told what to do, he replied with one of his sayings: "If somebody’s in need, teach them how to fish."
Whitney had been working on a book for older runners when he put it aside to write "A Time For Action," which incidentally is not on bookstore shelves but can be ordered through bookstores or the publisher iUniverse.
Why the running book? "It’s a very happy obsession with me. I run three miles every other day indoors at Yale. I don’t take pills and I don’t have an acre of pain."
"You do have a peculiarity," Dorothy pointed out. "You wear different-colored socks."
I checked him out; she was right. One was yellow and one was pink.
He smiled. "Too much time is wasted sorting out clean socks."
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Prayer for Peace

From left, the Rev. John Carr of Wallingford, Marie Corso of East Haven and the Rev. Sara Lamar-Sterling participate in the weekly Prayer for Peace vigil on the steps of the First & Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven Monday. Photo by Arnold Gold

Local TKE Chapter to Raise Money to combat Alzheimer's disease

The following is a a news release:

TKE chapters from all over New England will join the Tau-Eta Chapter of Southern Connecticut State University to dive into Long Island Sound to raise money for the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Alzheimer's Research Institute.

The Tau-Eta Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity will hold its 5th Annual TKE Plunge on March 8, in West Haven, with high expectations. The plungers hit the water at Savin Rock Conference Center on Capt. Thomas Boulevard.

The New England chapters will join Tau-Eta of Southern Connecticut State University, shown above in a previous event, to plunge into the freezing water of Long Island Sound at 11:30 a.m. People interested in taking the plunge, should visit for information on how to register. After the plunge, a banquet will take place for those who come out for the event. The anticipated attendance is more than 300 people.
Donations can be made in two ways:
1. Online at
2. Check to: SCSU (Memo: TKE Plunge), Tau Kappa Epsilon, 501 Crescent St., New Haven, CT 06515.

Microsociety School already has its elections wrapped up

While the race to the White House continues on a national level, a group of student leaders in at Microsociety School have been sworn in as mayor, deputy mayor and school officers. Superior Court Judge Angela C. Robinson administered the oath of office.

Robert Durant, an eighth grader, was sworn in as mayor; Shane Brown, a sixth grader, as deputy mayor; Ashley Roman, also a sixth grader, as treasurer; and Louis Oliwa, also an eighth grader, as secretary, school officials said in a news release.

Microsociety students ratify their own school constitution, which is written by students and is the document “by which the school is governed (speeding in the hallway, talking back and breaking cafeteria rules are among the violations subject to fines at this Microsociety school, for example), officials said in the release. Class representatives ratified the school constitution.

In addition, Microville’s Safety Patrol Peacekeepers were officially sworn into office by Sgt. Rick Rodriguez and Lt. Joseph Streeto of the New Haven Police Department. Speakers included Robert Kutzik,, regional director of MicroSociety Inc. and Carroll E. Brown, president of the West Haven Black Coalition, Inc.
At Microsociety Magnet, students are also citizens of “Microville,” a community within the school with its own mayor, bank, marketplace, police and judicial system, the release said. Students run for office, vote in elections, make and maintain laws and manage businesses. The model helps students apply classroom learning to real-life situations.
After the swearing in, the school celebrated with a Buffet style dinner and an Inaugural Ball.

Show in photo above, top, l to r, Treasurer Ashley Roman, Mayor Robert Durant, Deputy Mayor Shane Brown, and Secretary Louis Oliwar.

Photo above, bottom: The Microville choir performed at the inaugural.

Yankee Doodle was a dandy, but leaving town

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— After 58 years spent providing the public with a steady supply of no-frills eggs and hamburgers at the Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop, the Beckwith family tradition Tuesday morning came to a sudden end.
Rick Beckwith, third-generation owner of "The Doodle," rose as usual at 4:15 a.m. and drove from his home in West Haven to the 12-stool eatery at Elm Street opposite Yale’s Broadway.
But he wasn’t going there to open the door and fire up the grill. He had come to say goodbye to two of his most loyal customers, Nate and Walt, and to explain in person what was happening. He knew they would be waiting outside.
Beckwith said later it would be impolite to divulge those customers’ full names in the newspaper without their permission. He also thought it wouldn’t be right for them to have to read the unexpected farewell sign he posted shortly after he spoke with them.
"The Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop would like to thank all its customers, friends and family for 58 years of patronage," the sign said. "Unfortunately, due to economic times, I regretfully announce today, Jan. 29th, the Doodle is closing its doors for good."
"Once again, thank you for over a half-century of great memories," the sign continued. "You will be missed."
The message was simply signed, "The Doodle." Forever true to his modest nature, Beckwith did not put his name anywhere on the sign. After the first two loyalists heard the news, anyone trying to open the door would be left to press a head against the window and contemplate those 12 empty turquoise stools within the fabled 238 square feet, as well as the menu signs. These included: "Yankee Doodle’s famous scrambled eggs, served with buttered toast and jelly, $2.55."
Phil Cutler, long-time owner of Cutler’s Records across the street, who also succeeded his father in the family business, was shocked when he saw the sign.
"It’s almost like losing a family member," he said. "It’s another anchor on the block that kept us unique — and it’s gone."
The Yankee Doodle opened in June 1950, operated by Lewis Beckwith Sr., Rick Beckwith’s grandfather. It got its name from Lewis Beckwith Sr. recalling how his own father used to sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to him.
Lewis Beckwith Jr. took over the restaurant in 1972 when his dad retired. He in turn handed it over to his son in 2000. Two years later, Lewis Beckwith Jr. died after a battle with bone cancer.
Richard Beckwith, who has had his sister, Darlene Richitelli, working beside him every day (she also worked alongside her dad), said he decided not to announce the closing in advance because he recalled the many painful discussions at the counter concerning his father’s illness.
"It was very difficult for my sister and I to repeat every day, explaining what was wrong, until my father’s death," he said. "Explaining the closing also would have been tough emotionally. So I thought, ‘Let’s make it short and sweet.’"
BNevertheless, he said, "I want to thank everyone for being so supportive over the years, especially when our dad was sick. It meant a lot to the family."eckwith said the Broadway area has become much more competitive, with many new coffee shops. He said working long hours, 4:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. plus evening paperwork, six days a week, also took time away from being with his three kids.
Beckwith’s landlord was Michael Iannuzzi Sr., who owns Tyco, the copy supply business next door. Iannuzzi said the rental rate was not an issue in Beckwith’s decision.
Iannuzzi called Tuesday "a very difficult day" emotionally.
However, a source said Beckwith was paying "Manhattan rates," which were much more expensive than what Yale University charges its commercial tenants in the neighborhood. Beckwith declined to discuss his rent.
The end of "The Doodle" also means the end of "the Doodle Hamburger Hall of Fame." Periodically a big eater would come in and challenge the record for most burgers eaten in one sitting. Ed "Cookie" Jarvis of Nesconset, N.Y., set a new standard in October 2003 by polishing off 31 burgers in 23 minutes.
Other famous "Doodle" customers through the years included actors Henry Winkler, Sigourney Weaver, Meryl Streep and Jodie Foster, who studied drama at Yale.
Beckwith, 44, said his new career will be sales work for United Light and Power, which offers third-party electric service to businesses and residents.
But his voice grew husky with emotion as he described the 89 condolence messages that had already appeared by mid-afternoon Tuesday on his Web site ( as word spread of the "Doodle" demise.
"This was not an easy decision to make," he said.
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Gateway building to go green

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— The new Gateway Community College will be a four-story brick and glass structure that will run along Church Street with a multilevel atrium connecting the two-block-long facility and a separate garage fronting on Crown Street.
City aldermen and members of the city’s Development Commission got a look Tuesday at the $198 million project as designed by architects Perkins and Will of New York. The meeting, shown above, was held at Gateway's Long Wharf Campus.
As traffic exits from the Route 34 connector to downtown New Haven, the first thing drivers will see of the college is a three-story glass-enclosed library with a green roof, a feature that wraps the corner of North Frontage Road and Church Street.
The main entrances to the two-block structure will be at the corner of George and Church streets with another at Church and Crown streets; separate ground-level entrances will be open to the public at the bookstore, cafeteria and an art gallery along Church Street.
The facility will be the first gold-certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building constructed with state funds.
"The Gateway project will be a model of energy efficiency for the state," Gov. M. Jodi Rell said. The LEED designation means it will use environmentally friendly materials and incorporate alternative energy technologies, including photovoltaic panels.
The "green" elements are expected to pay for themselves in 8½ years, according to state officials.
The original estimate for the long-awaited project was $140 million when the college put together a master plan in 2002 to consolidate its small windowless campus at Long Wharf in New Haven and a separate facility in North Haven.
Gateway has just under 6,000 full-time students enrolled in the two-year facility, and expects to have a 2 percent student enrollment increase each year, with construction scheduled to begin in summer 2009; the completion date is fall 2012.
The college will feature 115 classrooms, up from 80 in the existing school, and will be able to serve 7,000 full-time students, according to Gateway President Dorsey Kendrick. Another 4,000 to 5,000 students attend short-term continuing education courses.
Architect Robert Goodwin said it was a challenge to meet all the program needs of the college in the 360,000-square-foot facility without going higher than four stories.
The four-level atrium connecting the facility across George Street is a signature design element, as is a series of cascading stairs within the structure connecting the floors and opening it to indirect light.
He referrred to it as a "linear three-dimensional campus," and said the stairs would feature adjacent stadium seating where students could gather.
One disappointing feature was placement of the garage along a portion of Crown Street, which Economic Development Director Kelly Murphy and Parking and Traffic Director Michael Piscitelli thought would be hidden within the college.
Goodwin said such a design interfered with the need for sufficient contiguous space.
Alderwoman Frances "Bitsey" Clark, D-7, was worried about traffic entering and exiting on Crown Street, and the effect on expanding the college’s weekend classes on the heavy nightlife traffic from Thursday through Saturdays.
She also favored something to break up the blank wall of the garage on Crown Street. "You need to do something to make it exciting," she said.
Goodwin offered that there will be an estimated $1 million to commission art for the site, and Crown Street is a good area for it. In answer to Kelly, he said the linear design is broken up by vertical breaks in the glass wall and frosted glass in the small tower on Crown Street, while there is blue-glazed brick along the front.
Several city officials suggested the atrium be glass on both sides, but Goodwin said that would increase the cost.

Schools seeking to hire lobbyist

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Citing stiff competition for limited state funds, Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo has secured Board of Education approval to hire a lobbyist to represent the district.
"The smaller the pot gets, the more important it is to have a lobbyist on hand," said Mayo, shown at right. "We don’t want this board to be left behind," he said, playing on the title of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The board’s lobbyist would push legislation in Hartford and work with state leaders to increase New Haven’s funding.
The board did not discuss the new position’s salary.
"If we expect to get someone than can jump right in … we may have to pay a pretty decent salary for someone," Mayo said Tuesday. "I’m hoping to find someone that would jump feet first into the legislative session that is about to begin."
Mayo said he’s in Hartford once a week or every other week, but that’s not enough to push legislation.
"Dollars are going to be so tight this particular time," he said.
Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said his agency advocates for "boards of education as a whole but not for any one in particular."
He did not know how many school boards statewide have sought individual lobbyists, but said "I would assume some of the districts, if it was the right issue, might decide to hire somebody."
Mayo said that, specifically, New Haven needs to push for a change in magnet school funding.
"We have the largest, best magnet school program. To see that go down the drain, we need to try to get that repealed," Mayo saidNew Haven magnets stand to lose millions in state aid as a result of legislation passed last June. Lawmakers voted then to increase state funding to local schools and magnet schools, but also voted to phase in major reductions in Educational Cost Sharing grants for districts sending students to magnet schools. The legislation applies to students attending magnet schools both in and out of the district. The law goes into effect for the 2009-10 school year.
Mayo also noted $2.3 million in lost funding for the district’s literacy mentors.
"We need to lobby legislators to get that decision repealed," he said.
City Hall already has its own lobbying team, former state Rep. Chris DePino of DePino and Associates, and City Hall-based legislative liaison Laoise KinCQg.
Mayo first mentioned his desire to bring a lobbyist on staff earlier this month during a conversation charging the education non-profit Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now with pushing inaccurate data about charter school success.
Citing the strength of lobbying efforts put forth by charter schools, which city educators have charged with pulling funds away from other public schools, Mayo said the district "probably needs to hire a lobbyist."
"My thing is, when the total dollars start to dry up, and other people have the advantage of lobbyists, and you don’t have anyone, the power goes to the squeaky wheel," Mayo said. "We better get smart and do the same thing."
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or

Mayor supports carbon cap

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Mayor John DeStefano Jr. joined environmentalists Tuesday in calling for a statewide carbon cap to combat global warming.
At a press conference Tuesday morning at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School, amidst tanks of turtles, salmon eggs, dangling inflatable planets and student cutouts of giant feet depicting carbon footprints, city leaders and environmental activists claimed cities and states must take the lead on global warming while Congress remains inactive.
"While Congress has barely begun to debate these issues, cities and states are rolling up their sleeves to get the job done," said Chris Phelps, program director for Environment Connecticut.
Six state environmental organizations have joined forces on a push to pass legislation to cut emissions in the state to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050.
According to Connecticut Fund for the Environment staff attorney Charles Rothenberger, emissions levels are difficult to measure, but the state estimates 44 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalents were produced in 1990. By 2001, just over 46 million metric tons were produced statewide.
The agencies have been on a statewide tour pushing policies that would help achieve the targeted reduction in those numbers, including energy-efficient building codes, promotion of biofuel, use of energy-efficient appliances, and expansion of passenger and freight railways.
The plan also calls on the state to evaluate the impact climate change may make on state infrastructure and the environment.
"When we started this, we thought this was a big ask," said Jessie Stratton, director of Government Relations for Environment Northeast.
But response from state leaders has been unexpectedly positive, she said. "This is the time," she said.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s environmental plan, released in September 2006, calls for a 20 percent reduction by 2020 in peak electricity use and fossil fuel consumption, while pushing use of alternative fuels, renewable resources, and energy efficient technology.
Rell spokesman Rich Harris said he was unfamiliar with the specific plan presented Tuesday, but said Rell has "certainly been a strong advocate for lowering greenhouse gas emission."
With no federal commitment to reduce carbon emissions, states and cities like New Haven have taken independent action, DeStefano said, noting Barnard School had the largest solar panel display statewide when it opened in 2006.
While the city has encouraged "green building" in its latest school construction projects, early projects were "not as sensitive," DeStefano said, adding the city plans to return to those buildings to improve efficiency.
"New Haven is already ahead of the curve. This is more about establishing a cap that would apply to our entire state," said Phelps.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at

New Haven among low-performing school districts, report says

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff

Reports are expected over the next two weeks from the state Department of Education outlining recommended changes for 12 districts statewide, including New Haven, triggered by sub-par performance on state exams.
Bridgeport, East Hartford, Hartford, Meriden, Middletown, New Britain, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Waterbury and Windham also were each targeted for state review following failure to meet rising standards set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
While Connecticut districts have a long history of autonomous leadership, last June the state legislature gave $180 million to the state Department of Education with the authorization to intervene in districts and schools chronically failing to meet federal targets.
Cambridge Education, an international school improvement organization, has been hired to assess each of the 12 districts. The reports are due over the next two weeks.
Cambridge is expected to address districts’ positive and negative aspects, and will include interviews with central office, teachers and school staff, school boards, parents, union representatives, students, and community members, according to an Education Department release. District policy and curriculum, food services, transportation, finances, and human resources also were reviewed.
The state is expected to work with each of the 12 districts to improve performance, including considering changing school structure, professional development and communication.
The 12 targeted districts educate over 113,500 students, nearly 20 percent of the state’s total public school enrollment.
The state continues to trail the nation in addressing a wide achievement gap between minority and white students, and also poor and wealthier students.
"It’s important to understand these districts serve children with the greatest needs," said state education commissioner Mark McQuillan in a statement. "Poverty, student mobility, limited English language proficiency, teacher turnover, and lack of resources are significant factors affecting progress, factors which come into play well before students enter kindergarten."
He called for the state and districts to take joint responsibility for "our state’s neediest children."
"This effort represents a strong step forward in addressing Connecticut’s biggest educational challenge: closing the achievement gap," he said.
New Haven Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo said he was initially concerned the state wanted to micromanage districts. "I was pleasantly surprised. This process has not been one of micromanaging. …We’ve worked very well together."
Mayo said the district’s plan is a work in progress, but his top priorities have been curriculum development, improving administrative leadership, strengthening reading programs, and social development. "Of course none of it can be done without resources," he said.
Education Department spokesman Tom Murphy said state intervention is "not about gotcha."
"This is designed as a tool to help the district have a snap shop, another set of eyes," said Murphy. "This is really about how the district can effect change, make improvements that will lead to better student improvement. Let’s face it. No one does everything perfectly. These reports will find areas for improvement. ... There may be some things that are uncomfortable, but they’re all in the spirit of taking steps forward. We know that educators in New Haven want that to happen."
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yes, this is a shameless promotion of a former co-worker's new book. Yet, is also is a promotion of a story that highlights this great city we all love. And heck, send us something about yourself and, if it involves New Haven, we likely will promote you too.

Jump into Karen E. Olson’s new book, Dead of the Day, and you will jump into a fun and very exciting ride through the Elm City. And this is the Elm City through the eyes of a former reporter and longtime Register copy editor who grew up in this area and clearly can roam the main thoroughfares, docks and back alleys with the best of them.

From the campus of Yale University to the rich and lovely cultural tapestry of so many other areas of the city, Olson walks her readers through a smorgasbord of what New Haven has to offer. The food reference was no accident, either, as Olson’s prose is full of what her intrepid reporter heroine, Annie Seymour, loves to eat and it is what we all like to eat: diner food, organics at Claire’s Corner Copia and, of course, pizza.

But Dead of the Day is much more than a menu. It is a timely – though fictional – look at immigration and how those who come here can be targets of those who would take advantage of them.

Olson wrote this before immigration took on new prominence last summer when the feds conducted raids here that targeted alleged illegal immigrants.

The book also is a quite fictional look at crime in the city. This makes for an exciting tale, some of which unfolds at the fictional newspaper the New Haven Herald, where Annie Seymour works.

The Herald reminds me a whole lot of the Register, at least in the way the building is structured, and the drama that takes place in the book has had me looking over my shoulder a few times as I walk in the dark parking lot to my car. (OK, I am not brave, but it also is that Olson describes so well the terrors her heroine faces.)

Dead of the Day is worth a read, as are Annie Seymour’s previous adventures in Olson’s books Sacred Cows and Second Hand Smoke. Along with its locally-grown adventure, it contains a dose of romance and – I admit I did not count them – what seemed to be a few less of Annie’s (expletive deleted) favorite swear words.

Long-term infatuation, little studied

By Abram Katz
Register Science Editor
Do you remember falling in love?
Euphoria alternated with romantic longings; intimate fantasies intruded into unrelated thoughts.
You concentrated solely on the object of your desire, forgetting about friends and framing all activities around her or him.
As weeks go by, you recognize that Mister or Miss Perfect is a real person, with foibles, faults and funny habits. You either accommodate all of it, or start over with someone else.
But, there are some people — perhaps many — men and womenwho stay infatuated, constantly calculating how to elicit a loving response from the beloved. That desperate feeling can persist for months, or years.
This unhappy and insatiable kind of love is called limerence.
Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist at the University of Bridgeport, name and the "limerence,"phenomenon, publishing a book, "Love and Limerence" in 1979.
Interest in limerence waned until an adjunct professor of psychology at Southern Connecticut State University, who studied with Tennov, and a SCSU graduate student recently renewed research.
Albert Wakin, who is also a psychology professor at Sacred Heart University, said he hopes to define limerence more rigorously, and explore the limerent personality along with a profile of the typical limerent’s object.
Wakin and graduate student Duyen Vo, shown above, believe limerence includes elements of obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction. Ultimately, Wakin and Vo want to formulate an effective treatment.
Incidentally, Tennov made up the word "limerence." As far as Wakin and Vo know, the word has no Latin meaning noror Greek roots.
So, what is it exactly?
"A person longs for emotional reciprocation from another, to the point that they’re fixated, focused on the other person. Addicted to another person," Wakin said.
The limerent person adjusts his behavior to please and get a response from the person to whom he has latched.
"He constantly is adjusting his behavior and always asking, ‘Am I OK?’" Vo said.
Early stages of limerence are indistinguishable from love, Wakin said. In limerence, the early phase of the relationship persists. The limerent’s object may at first welcome the attention, only to take advantage of the limerent person. Or the limerent may drive the object away with a constant desire to be together.
Limerence seems to depend on uncertainty, Vo said.
"When you have certainty, it diminishes," she said. This can be problematic if the object expresses the wish to spend the rest of her life with the limerent, only to then find out that he’s no longer interested.
The constant thinking about the beloved and focus on interpreting words or even barely perceptible expressions is similar to an obsessive compulsive disorder, Wakin and Vo said. The thoughts are intrusive, meaning they emerge involuntarily and are unwanted.
Limerence also seems to encompass an addictive factor, Wakin and Vo said.
If the limerent’s object gets fed up and unambiguously ends the relationship — for instance, by moving to another country — the limerent person experiences withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, discomfort in the chest and abdomen, stomachache, depression, irritability and difficulty sleeping.
Limerent feelings slowly decline and may vanish in weeks or months. However, longing may continue for decades, Wakin said.
Limerence seems to occur across racial, educational and socioeconomic lines, affecting men and women equally, he said.
Wakin and Vo are studying Tennov’s case studies and have screened several hundred subjects, finding about 100 with limerent tendencies.
"No one knows about limerence, so there are no treatment protocols. It is often misdiagnosed as an anxiety disorder or depression," she said.
The duo are also interested in determining what other psychological issues limerent patients have, along with a profile of the object person.
Wakin said limerence is a problematic behavior. Jealousy and domestic violence may result in a small number of instances, but a vast majority of limerent people develop other relationships and function normally, suppressing feelings for the limerent object, he said.
Limerence is not love gone to extremes, Wakin said. Some people have mild cases and others severe, but the behaviors run parallel to love, which itself is not well understood, Wakin said.
"Limerents are apt to feel: "Something is wrong with me. I can’t control it. I think I’m going crazy,’" Vo said. Limerent people are generally relieved to discover that they aren’t losing their minds, she said.
Wakin said a predisposition for limerence is probably hard-wired into the brain, and has been with humans for millenniums, who have called it love sickness, love madness, puppy love and many other names.
"Love is different than limerence," Wakin said.
Abram Katz can be reached at or 789-5719.

Will Obama visit the Nutmeg State?

By Gregory B. Hladky
Capitol Bureau Chief
— Monday’s campaign stop in Connecticut by U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York so far hasn’t led to any plans by her rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination to make similar visits before the Feb. 5 primary.
But state Democratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said Clinton’s chief Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, may take more notice of Connecticut now.
"I certainly think it should make him pay attention," said DiNardo, "that Hillary thought enough about Connecticut to come, so that he might do it, too."
Reid Cherlin, Obama’s Connecticut campaign spokesman, said there are no current plans to bring the candidate here.
"We don’t know yet," Cherlin said. "His schedule isn’t set yet … we’re hoping."
Cherlin said the candidate’s wife, Michelle Obama, is scheduled to visit this state Wednesday for a campaign fundraiser in Fairfield County, and a public event as well. Cherlin said times and locations haven’t been determined yet.
Many political experts were doubtful Clinton, Obama or any of the other major Democratic or Republican candidates would bother coming to this small state in advance of the Feb. 5 vote.
The so-called "Super Duper" primaries and caucuses on that date will involve 22 states, including major population centers such as New York, California and Illinois that have far more delegates at stake than little Connecticut.
John Orman, a professor of politics at Fairfield University, said Clinton’s campaign organization is working hard in Connecticut and recent polls show her with a commanding lead over Obama.
"Barack may just figure that Connecticut is so small and so much for Hillary that he might not come," said Orman. He said Obama’s campaign is likely to concentrate on larger states "where he has a chance for an upset."
"But if he does come, I think he’d be really well received here in Connecticut," Orman added.
Meanwhile, several state lawmakers who support Obama’s candidacy said at a news conference that havingObama would be the strongest candidate the Democrats could have in November. They argued that having him at the top of the ticket would bring independents and even some Republicans out to vote, which could help other Democrats running for office.
Gregory B. Hladky can be contacted at or (860) 524-0719.

Dems says hooray for Hillary

By Gregory B. Hladky
Capitol Bureau Chief
— The loudest roars Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may have received during her brief Connecticut visit Monday came when she noted the significance of another event that evening.
"Tonight is a red-letter night in American history," Clinton told an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 at Hartford’s Magnet Middle School. "It is the last time George Bush will give a State of the Union address!"
Clinton, greeted by crowds such as the one shown at right, made her morning stop in Connecticut as part of a multi-state swing designed to regain some momentum following her weekend loss to rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in the South Carolina primary.
She arrived in Connecticut from New York after campaigning in Tennessee Sunday. Clinton made an additional afternoon stop in Springfield, Mass., before returning to the nation’s capital to hear the president’s speech to Congress.
The Clinton campaign suffered another setback Monday when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., endorsed Obama; Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, had done the same Sunday.
Connecticut is considered strong Hillary Clinton territory. Clinton, who met her husband, former President Bill Clinton, while both were at Yale University, repeatedly noted her long familiarity with this state.
Interest in Clinton’s campaign was clear Monday from the long lines of supporters who waited in the cold to gain entry to the school gymnasium where their candidate was appearing.
But not everyone in the crowd, regardless of their feelings about President Bush, was necessarily committed to voting for Hillary Clinton in Connecticut’s Feb. 5 presidential primary.
"I’m a little bit undecided," said Brittany English, a Trinity College senior from Vermont. "I’ve been jumping around between candidates."
Anita Jagjivan of West Hartford was in the same situation. "I think I’m still making up my mind," she said. "I like both of them."
Clinton did her best to convince them during her 26-minute speech and about 22 minutes of answering questions from the audience, sounding a variety of popular Democratic themes.
She promised to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, but cautioned it was unlikely to be accomplished all at once. "I want to do this very carefully," Clinton said.
As for U.S. foreign policy generally, Clinton insisted the message she would send to the world is that, "The era of cowboy diplomacy is over.
"We need to demonstrate that we’re not afraid to find common ground with anybody," she said.
Clinton spoke forcefully about the need to make a major federal effort on the economy. "We are sliding into recession," she said. Clinton called for a 90-day moratorium on housing foreclosures, a five-year freeze on interest rates, and more federal funding for food stamps and assistance to the poor for utility bills.
On education, Clinton said universal pre-kindergarten programs are essential and it is time "to start over and scrap (Bush’s controversial) No Child Left Behind" program.
Clinton also said the U.S. is falling behind other nations of the world in attempting to combat global warming. She proposed new federal funding for solar energy, energy efficiency programs and pushing requirements for higher gas mileage for motor vehicles. Clinton said she would seek to have a new international agreement on global warming by the end of her first year in office.
The candidate’s performance impressed many in the crowd. "I thought she was great," said JoAnne Bannister, a Barkhamsted resident. "I was on the fence … but I’m really impressed with Hillary, and her very concrete plans."
"I think she would make the best president," said Bob Finkel, 69, of New Haven. Finkel said he believes Clinton has a better chance than Obama of beating the Republicans in November. "Barack Obama’s very capable, too, but there’s a lot of prejudice out there," he said.
A number of top Connecticut Democrats showed up to greet and praise Clinton. They included Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Comptroller Nancy Wyman,House Speaker James A. Amann and Sen. Gayle Slossberg, both D-Milford, and former state Democratic Chairman George Jepsen.
Blumenthal spoke for many of those Democratic politicians in dismissing Obama’s South Carolina victory as irrelevant to the Connecticut primary. Sl"No effect," said Blumenthal, who attended Yale Law School with both the Clintons. "She hit on all the right issues… her issues are Connecticut’s issues." "She hit on all the themes I’m interested in," said Amann, adding that the enthusiasm at Clinton’s Monday rally would appear to be a sign that the South Carolina primary hasn’t had much impact here.ossberg said she believes the only carryover from the South Carolina vote will be a result of the extremely high turnout in that state. She argued that such intense interest "energizes the Democratic base" elsewhere.
Gregory B. Hladky can be contacted at or (860) 524-0719.

Emails point to retaliation, prof says

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
— Correspondence between federal agencies tends to lend support to the theory that an immigration raid this summer was in retaliation to New Haven’s municipal ID card, according to a Yale professor.
Michael Wishnie Monday s, one of several attorneys defending the card and more than 30 immigrants picked up by federal Immigration and Enforcement officials in June,aid a June 5 e-mail from regional Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to ICE Director Julie Myers "casts doubts on the statements that the raid had nothing to do with the ID program."
The June 5 e-mail to Myers informs her that on June 4 the city’s Board of Aldermen had voted 25-1 in favor of the first-in-the-nation ID cards, which are available to all residents, regardless of immigration status.
The e-mail further warns Myers that because of the vote, ICE should expect considerable news coverage of the June 6 raid in New Haven. More than 30 immigrants were arrested during that raid, the majority of whom are out of jail and litigating against the manner in which the raid was conducted.
Wishnie said there is "no direct smoking gun" revealing ICE’s intentions, but taken together, the correspondence "tends to support the suggestion that I have made that it is retaliatory."
ICE spokeswoman Paula Greiner from the Boston office has said the e-mail was routine in that officials always pass on information that might affect a raid. She could not be reached for further comment Monday, but Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in the summer also denied the raids were retaliatory.
Wishnie, who is part of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization clinic at Yale, felt the mid-April date of ICE’s pre-operation plan for the New Haven raid was more significant than the June 5 e-mail.
ICE has said from the start that the raid was not connected to the ID cards since the planning took place in April and the cards did not get final local approval until June.
Wishnie said there was press on the ID card throughout the spring, including a laudatory op-ed piece in the Connecticut section of the New York Times April 15.
"At the end of that business week (on April 20), ICE in Hartford has submitted a plan to do an operation in New Haven, which goes up the chain of command. To me it is that part that most suggests this was direct retaliation," Wishnie said.
An original date to conduct the date in May was cancelled and moved to June.
A state Freedom of Information hearing on a request for the names and other documentation supporting the ID cards by Chris Powell of the Manchester Journal-Inquirer has been set for Feb. 20, but Wishnie and the city are expected to seek an extension until March or April.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or

Jury selection begins in slaying outside club

By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— More than a year after the shooting death of Tony Howell outside a Whalley Avenue club, the accused shooter, Ernest Pagan, Monday went on trial in Superior Court on a charge of murder.
Pagan, 29, formerly of 212 Sheffield Ave., also is charged with attempted murder in the shooting of James Brown Jr., who is now 28. Brown was seriously injured, but survived.
Pagan, who has been incarcerated since his arrest, was brought into the courtroom dressed in a tie, tan shirt and dark pants. He twice said "not guilty" when asked by the court clerk how he pleaded to the charges.
Testimony will not begin until Feb. 25 at the earliest. Defense attorney Thomas Ullmann and Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Elizabeth Baran Monday began the laborious process of selecting 16 jurors. By the end of the court session Monday afternoon, prospective jurors had been questioned, but nobody had been picked.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Thompson told the first group of potential jurors that even if Pagan were to be convicted, he would not face capital punishment. The death penalty is reserved for only select cases in Connecticut.
Howell, 31, and Brown were shot outside Newt’s Cafe, 345 Whalley Ave. Street at about 1:15 a.m. Dec. 24, 2006. Pagan was arrested Feb. 2, 2007.
According to the police affidavit written by Detective Reginald Sutton, two days after the shooting, Rodrigo Ramirez told police he had seen Pagan shoot the two men outside Newt’s. Ramirez said he had known Pagan for about 10 years.
The affidavit also says Danielle Adams and her friend Michael Anderson both identified Pagan as the shooter.
Howell’s fiance, Jamie Walker, told Sutton she saw Brown arguing with Keron Robinson inside the club just before the shooting. She said she saw Brown and Howell conferring, then the two of them walked outside with Robinson.
Shortly afterward, she heard gunfire. She ran outside and saw Howell and Brown lying on the ground in a pool of blood, according to the affidavit. Howell was unable to speak, but she said Brown kept saying to her, "I’m sorry, I’m sorry."
Walker told Sutton she had heard Brown was the intended target because he and some of his friends had jumped Robinson while they were locked up at the New Haven Correctional Center. She said Pagan and Robinson were good friends.
But the affidavit says when police interviewed Brown a couple of weeks after the shooting, he said he could not identify his attacker.
When Pagan was first interviewed, according to the affidavit, he said he had never been to Newt’s. In a follow-up interview, he allegedly said he had not been there since November 2006.
Several of Pagan’s family members, including his fiance, were in court Monday to provide emotional support.
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

Contest to target underage drinking

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut wants the public to know they are getting serious about underage drinking by calling on college students to spread the word among the state’s youngest drinkers.
At a press conference Monday at Southern Connecticut State University, the association announced a new competition for college students. Participants will compete by submitting public service announcements for TV that call on parents to warn children 8 to 14 about the dangers of underage alcohol consumption.
"We are parents, too. ... Ten is the onset age when children begin to drink," said Peter A. Berdon, executive director for Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut. The association represents the state’s alcohol distributors and organized the contest, cthe WSWC PSA Contest 2008,alled "Renewing the Spirit of Connecticut: Tackling Underage Drinking."
Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl A. Norton and Jill Spineti, president of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, joined in making the announcement in Southern’s Michael J. Adanti Student Center.
The association believes college students can be more effective in finding ways to communicate the message to both parents and young children. The theory is that students understand the problem because they have witnessed it firsthand.
T"Once I got into late middle school, I saw lots of students using alcohol to escape their problems. They saw it in their house, they thought it was OK, and they took it right from the cabinets," said Kerin Jaros-Dressler, 20, of Willimantic, a junior at Eastern Connecticut State University who attended the press conference.he Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage Drinking, part of the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, reports that Connecticut children start consuming alcohol at age 11 on average, two years earlier than the national average.
Berdon pointed out that family and friends provide two-thirds of the alcohol used by underage drinkers, which makes them the target audience for the PSAs.
The contest will be open to all students enrolled in colleges and universities in Connecticut. Submissions must be received by April 15. Approved applicants may get a stipend of up to $150 to help with expenses in video production.
The grand prize winner gets $2,500, the second place winner gets $1,500, and the third place winner gets $1,000. The winning entry will be aired on network and cable television by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers.
State Police Lt. J. Paul Vance praised the partnership between universities, alcohol distributors, educators and parents. "We in law enforcement cannot do this alone. We need parents on board. We need educators on board. ... If we can save one child, we’ve made a difference."
Alcohol distributors say they have long supported initiatives against underage drinking, but have now begun to work together for greater impact.
"We are very careful about how we market. This is a legal product at the age of 21. We will do everything we can to abide by the law and to help people not overconsume. Moderate consumption is appropriate, underage drinking is not appropriate," said Andrew Hillman of Connecticut Distributors.
To obtain an application or for more information, contact Kathryn Glendon, community program manager, by mail at Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, 132 Temple St., New Haven 06510, by phone at 624-9900, orCQ by e-mail at All submissions must have a faculty adviser or be part of a college course.

Mayor pushes legislative agenda

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— Mayor John DeStefano Jr. unveiled the city’s legislative agenda Monday, concentrating political efforts on property tax reform, prison re-entry initiatives, downtown development and restored funding for payment-in-lieu of taxes.
The city will seek millions in state and federal aid for education, environment, development and community initiatives, but has not released a total dollar amount claiming the full agenda is unlikely to be funded, according to city spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga.
DeStefano has called for property taxes to be capped at 5 to 6 percent of income, to be paid for by a repeal of the property tax credit.
The city agenda also seeks to restore PILOT funds for hospital and college property. According to city officials, New Haven has not been fully reimbursed for those tax-exempt properties since 2001. While the city is due 77 percent of what would have been paid by a private owner, last year the city was reimbursed only 58 percent. The city is seeking a $20 million to $25 million increase in PILOT funds.
The agenda also reveals what New Haven seeks in public aid for the Route 34 East project to rebuild the city street grid through the Route 34 corridor between North Frontage Road and Legion Avenue.
The city will seek $75 million from the federal government and $25 million from the state to rebuild roads there, opening the area for an estimated $225 million of private investment.
Following the state’s sweeping criminal justice reform legislation passed last week, which added $7 million for prison re-entry and alternative-to-incarceration programs for New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport, the city continued its push for $500,000 in state aid and $2 million in federal funds for its own re-entry efforts Monday.
"These are tough times. We need to stick together to make sure we get through them together," said Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield, D-29. "In the long term, the state will be happy it did."
State and federal legislators were noticeably absent from the Monday morning event.
City Hall and the state delegation do not always mesh on legislative priorities, resulting in mixed messages to Hartford leadership, according to one legislator.
The issue was underscored Monday when state Rep. Patricia Dillon announced she had filed legislation seeking a $780,000 appropriation for a new ranger station at Edgewood Park.
The message was released just as DeStefano unveiled his priorities, which did not include the ranger station. "I had been hopeful that the mayor would include it," Dillon said.
Dillon said she was invited to the city’s Monday morning press conference after hours Friday, and could not change her schedule in time to attend.
"I’m not sure they really designed it to include the delegation," she said.
Mayorga said DeStefano "supports Rep. Dillon’s efforts to develop this ranger station" and the exclusion of the project from the agenda "in no way indicates the mayor is opposed. … We were simply outlining city-driven initiatives."
According to State Speaker James Amann, D-Milford, disconnect between City Hall and legislators is not uncommon. "New Haven is better than some of the other communities I deal with — Waterbury, Bridgeport, Hartford," he said.
"It’s important to encourage communication. I can’t have the mayor’s priority list and the legislators’ priority list, especially if they don’t match up. You have to give me direction," Amann said.
"Mayors and delegates need to get priorities on the same page when they introduce [legislative agendas] to me. The ones that do, see a lot of success. The ones that don’t, unfortunately go to the wayside," he said.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fat Tuesday...and this is a good thing

The following is press release provided by the New Haven Free Public Library:

New Haven Public Library 121 years old and still celebrating Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras has become a New Haven tradition with its celebration of the fun, frivolity and funky jazz of New Orleans and the birth of a local democratic institution: New Haven Free Public Library.

Held at the New Haven Lawn Club at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 5, the local "Fat Tuesday" celebration raises money to benefit the collections and programs of the Public Library and boasts an evening of celebration that includes a silent auction, New Orleans style fare, Dixieland music and local award honorees.

"Mardi Gras is a signature fundraiser for us" notes Jim Welbourne, New Haven’s city librarian. "It’s a time to celebrate the founding of the Public Library in New Haven as well as a time to recognize those individuals and groups who help keep the library vital and vibrant for all our public today," he said.

Keeping the library vibrant in difficult economic times has also been the challenge of the Library Board headed by Keith Bradoc Gallant and the Patrons Board chaired by Michael Morand.

Patrons is the library’s 501(c )(3), which raises funds to ensure that the public library has the necessary resources to provide programs and enhance services.

Mardi Gras 2008 will honor Dr. Alice Prochaska, University Librarian and Yale University Library with the Noah Webster Award for feeding a passion for education and literacy beyond the formal classroom. Mary Ives Award will be given to; Read to Grow, Inc. and The New Haven Reads Community Book Bank, Inc. two community organizations that support the public library’s life long literacy mission. Mardi Gras 2008 also features a list of corporate and Foundation sponsors, including the Presenting Sponsors: Yale University and United Illuminating.

For more information about sponsorships, ads, auction items and tickets for the New Haven Public Library’s Mardi Gras visit the patrons Web site at: or by calling Barbara Segaloff at 946-8130 ext. 314.

New police chief likely to cost more

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— The police chief’s $101,000 salary and department car isn’t chump change, but is it enough to lure a top-shelf candidate with national credentials to the Elm City?
Probably not, and the consultant hired to conduct a nationwide search for the next chief is suggesting city officials might need to sweeten the pot if they hope to attract the high-caliber policing professional the city is seeking.
"One of the things (the Police Executive Research Forum) informed us ... is in order to attract someone to come to New Haven, the salary is likely to have to be raised," said Alderman Alex Rhodeen, the chairman of the board’s public safety committee. "The chief of Providence makes $150,000. There’s a real cost that will come with bringing someone from outside of the department." PERF is currently advertising seven police chief jobs on its Web site and nearly every one that listed salary ranges paid more than New Haven.
Calumet City, Ill., a municipality of 40,000 people just south of Chicago, is offering $110,000 to $130,000 to lead the 93-officer department.
Commerce City, Colo., with a population of 47,000 and 88 cops, pays $107,772 to $124,715.
College Station, Texas, is offering $110,400 to $129,200 to the next chief of its 114-officer force.
Even the 63-officer department in Lancaster, Texas, starts off in the "low-$100K range."
New Haven has about 400 police officers and its chief, Francisco Ortiz Jr., is the lowest paid of any of Connecticut’s big-city chiefs.
Bridgeport Police Chief Bryan Norwood makes $119,953. While Hartford did not provide an exact salary for its chief, a police spokeswoman said the range is $130,000 to $150,000.
New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts declined to say if the city was considering increasing the salary or benefits package, commenting, "I wouldn’t want to consider that" without first addressing the Board of Aldermen.
Smuts said PERF will assemble and interview candidates and then present the city with its short list. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. has the final say on who gets appointed.
Carl Goldfield, president of the Board of Aldermen, said there’s a general recognition among the lawmakers that the salary will have to be increased, especially when looking at what other cities are paying.
"It’s a reality that in order to get quality, you’ve got to pay for it. That’s the bottom line. It’s a big job, literally 24 hours a day, seven days a week on call," he said.
The city has been lucky, he said, to keep the salary at this range by promoting from within.
Now, the next chief will be asked to uproot his or her life, possibly pull children from school and maybe force a working spouse to find new employment here, he said.
Then, once that person arrives, he or she will be charged with changing the structure of a department that is "used to doing things the way it has been doing things," instilling a renewed community policing spirit and rethinking how the department does internal ethics investigation, all on top of the regular duties of a chief, Goldfield said.
"Yeah, I think people understand how big a job this is and we’re not going to get it on the cheap," he said.
The New Haven job is open to all internal and external candidates, but the city appears intent on a vigorous external search, committing to pay PERF $60,000 to spearhead the process.
And it’s not just the pay that might have to be sweetened. The city might also have to offer a severance package on the back end to increase appeal.
Stressing the importance of hiring a dynamic chief, Rhodeen said he supports the idea of increasing the salary and building an "appropriate" severance package "to attract the right candidate. "There would have to some incentive in the front end in the form of salary but anyone who is going to pick up their family and move to New Haven, they’re going to need some protection."
Chuck Wexler, the executive director from PERF, wasn’t available to speak about the search effort.

May the road rise to meet you...

The following is a news release from the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee.

We Need Your Help!

The Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade has earned a reputation as one of the best parades in New England! Many may not realize that it is the nation’s 6th oldest parade and Connecticut’s largest single-day spectator event! In 1999, the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade was recognized by Congress as a “Local Legacy” and is so noted in the Library of Congress as an outstanding example of American folk life.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade annually attracts over 250,000-300,000 people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds throughout New England who come to celebrate this annual rite of spring. The parade, which first stepped off in 1842 in downtown New Haven with 60 marchers and a single band, now boasts of approximately 4,000 marchers including national and international political figures and bands and units from across the globe.

Our challenge is to keep the tradition going…and that is where we need your help! The parade is organized by an all-volunteer committee, known as the Associated Irish Societies, that works tirelessly year round to raise the approximately $80,000 it costs to make the parade happen.

You can help by making a donation to the Associated Irish Societies. All donations are tax deductible (to the extent allowed by the law) as the Associated Irish Societies, is a 501(c)3 organization.

You may make your donation by either mailing a check to Associated Irish Societies, P.O. Box 2, New Haven, CT 06510; or through the parade’s website Once there, click on the “Make a Donation” button and it will lead you to a very safe and secure link to make a contribution via PayPal. PayPal is free to consumers and works seamlessly with existing credit cards and checking accounts. It is a recognized safe and secure way to ensure the continuation of this “Local Legacy.”

Your support is sincerely appreciated and we look forward to seeing you at the Parade on Sunday, March 9, 2008 at 1:00 p.m.!

Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee

Spirit of Mary Wade

Lauren Franchi, l, admires co-worker Carmela Borrelli's "Spirit of Mary Wade" award during a recent special breakfast for employees of the facility. Franchi also received an award for 25 years of service and 6 months of perfect attendance. Franchi is Director of Dietary. Borrelli works in the kitchen.

Photo by Melanie Stengel

Celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The annual Building the Community Martin Luther King Conference and Celebration was held at Wexler-Grant Community School on Jan. 21. Here, at right, Maxine Morris makes a wire memory bracelet in the jewelery-making workshop.

Photo by Brad Horrigan

Criminal justice reform to aid New Haven

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
— The sweeping new legislation that will reform the state’s criminal justice system also will reap rewards for New Haven, as the package contains $7 million for prison reentry and alternative-to-incarceration programs for three large cities.
The plan, signed into law by Gov. M. Jodi Rell Friday, immediately adds 35 beds for both reentry and alternative-to-incarceration programs, and adds 100 beds in each category by Nov. 15. The funds are targeted for programs that serve New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford.
The city estimates 25 prisoners are released into New Haven neighborhoods from state prisons each week.
The package passed last week also calls for a 12-bed residential sex offender treatment facility, for occupancy no later than July 1 at a location to be determined. The lack of such a state facility came to sudden light last year when Southbury residents loudly protested the release of a repeat sex offender into their usually quiet suburb.
State Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven touted the reform package as a direct benefit to New Haven and said re-entry “primarily has to be a state initiative, because they are the responsibility of the state when released.”
“We need better ways of gradually phasing people back into the community,” he said.
“These are critically important sections of the bill that are absolutely necessary as part of criminal justice reform,” said Looney. “We need to find effective ways to provide gradual reentry for people who are coming out of prison and to provide them with mental health and other necessary services and programs.”
But even as the state works to ramp up its programs, the city also will continue to push its own multi-million dollar reentry plan.
The city is seeking $500,000 in state aid and $3 million in federal funds this year to expand programs to assist recently released inmates. Those numbers are significantly less than estimated late last year due to new cost evaluations. Laoise King, the city’s liaison to the state delegation, said the plan has not been scaled back. The recently-approved state package already includes $7 million in state aide for reentry and alternative-to-incarceration programs, targeting New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford.
“I think it’s heartening to see reentry was part of the (state) crime package, but I certainly think the city of New Haven would want to see more in additional resources to tackle additional issues,” said New Haven’s Community Services Administrator Kica Matos.
Forty-seven percent of those released directly into the community will return to jail, a Central Connecticut State University study found.
It’s an expensive problem. The Justice Mapping Center estimates the state spent $16.5 million in 2006 incarcerating 267 inmates from the Hill neighborhood alone. Citywide, 1,259 inmates resulted in $77 million in prison expenses.
New Haven’s plan calls for diverting some of those millions towards efforts to aid the low-income communities most impacted by crime, and now absorbing the majority of the released prison population.
New Haven’s plan calls for expansion of community-based re-entry programs, beyond what is available now, and beyond the approved additional beds. The plan also calls for the end to so-called “prison dumping,” in which released inmates are dropped-off outside jails and homeless shelters, and the end to systematic practices that harm ex-offenders changes of success after release, such as the city’s recent initiative removing the requirement that applicants for city jobs disclose their criminal history.
But as New Haven starts to shop its plan to lawmakers outside the city, it’s unclear how it will be received.
State Rep. William Dyson, D-New Haven, questioned where city funds are in the re-entry proposal.
“Whose money is missing (from the proposal)?” he questioned. “Does the city have some responsibility to find some solution to the problem? Absolutely,” he said.
“The request is going to be made to the state. I’m still waiting to hear what the city is putting in. What are they committing to this?” he said.
New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said he found Dyson’s comments “bizarre.”
“In as much as these are state Department of Corrections inmates returning to our community, we bear the cost of housing, we bear the social cost, and we provide tax exemptions to services that support this population,” DeStefano said. “I absolutely cannot shift these (new) costs onto the already overburdened taxpayers of New Haven.”
Lawmakers pushed for the criminal justice system reform following the brutal triple-homicide in Cheshire in July.
Dyson was one of 12 legislators to vote against the reforms.
“All the home invasions in New Haven, Bridgeport didn’t mean a thing until it happened in Cheshire,” Dyson said. “You had a tragedy of the worst sort take place in Cheshire. Nothing we did on Tuesday would have prevented that from taking place.”
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or at

Owner sues city over store’s razing

By William Kaempffer
Register Staff
— The owner of an already razed downtown jewelry store blames the city for wrecking her building and livelihood in the aftermath of the devastating Dec. 12 mid-block fire and has filed a lawsuit seeking damages.
Shang-Jin Hahn’s century-old building at 848 Chapel St., where she and her late husband ran Concord 9 for the better part of three decades, already was a pile of rubble when she filed the appeal to the demolition order by the city Jan. 17.
One aim of the legal action is to prevent the city from putting a lien on the property to recoup the cost of the demolition. Another is to seek monetary damages. She claims the city and it demolition contractor negligently damaged her building while tearing down the adjacent, fire-ravaged damaged Kresge department store.
Her building survived the fire itself relatively unscathed.
City Corporation Counsel John Ward Friday said “we absolutely deny” any negligence on the city’s part.
Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee has scheduled a Feb. 6 public hearing about the fire, the city’s response to it and potential liability from firefighters’ exposure to asbestos.
How much substantive information will come out in open session is in question given the pending lawsuits and demolition appeals. Aldermanic President Carl Goldfield suspected any detailed explanation by city officials about the demolition will happen in executive session.
“My guess would be whenever we’ve got litigation against us, there’s going to be constraints on what the city can say in public,” he said.
After the three-alarm fire, Building Official Andrew Rizzo, who is a defendant in the lawsuit, declared the Kresge buildings an imminent danger and the city hired a contractor to take them down, despite opposition from the owner, Mid-Block Development.
At first, it appeared that the Spector Building, as Hahn’s property was known, could be saved, at least for the time being. The building had deteriorated over the years, but Rizzo concluded that it could stay up as long as the abutting building that helped support it was left standing. The plan was to leave that fire-damaged structure up and turn the project back over to Mid-Block to finish.
On Jan. 1, Hahn demanded the city not proceed with demolition unless it could ensure it would not compromise her building.
On Jan. 4, a massive I-beam gave way overnight, twisting the last portion of the Kresge building. That forced its demolition and left the city with no choice but to raze Spectors, Rizzo has said.
“It inevitably was going to collapse if you took away the remains of the Kresge building,” Ward said.
Further, the collapse of the I-beam had nothing to do with the city’s activities, he said, saying “it fell of its own accord.”
Hahn hired her own structural engineers, who told her that the demolition work already performed had damaged her property and “that alternative demolition measures should have been employed rather than the inappropriate ones that were used,” the lawsuit states.
In addition, she claimed, the city should have, but didn’t provide her with, any opportunity to “render the premises safe.”
It’s not the first time the city’s actions have been called into question. Paul Denz, of Mid-Block Development, has filed a similar appeal in Superior Court and has criticized the city’s haste in moving forward with demolition even after he contends the imminent danger had ended.
He also is seeking to prevent the city from putting a lien on the property for demolition costs, which Rizzo says now are in the neighborhood of $2 million.
The city is continuing to work with Hahn to find her a new location for her business.
“I really felt bad doing that to the Hahns,” Rizzo said of the demolition order. “They’ve been there for a long time. They’re nice people, but I had to do what I had to do.”

Wild about flowers!

According to a release from Shaun Roche, visitor services manager at the  Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, "Each spr...